Henry James International Management January 2020 Market Commentary

Market Overview

 While the first month of the new decade generally saw negative equity performance, after the way in which markets overcame apparent obstacles throughout 2019, we are hopeful that this is nothing more than a temporary setback. In January the MSCI EAFE index fell by -2.08%, which, while a deviation from its stellar 2019 returns, could quickly resume growth if the market returns to its long term trend in 2020.  Meanwhile, the MSCI Emerging Marketing index plateaued for most of the month before falling sharply at its tail end, resulting in performance of -4.66%. Lastly, the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap index did not fare much better, as its value fell by -2.88% in January.

For all the drama of 2019, the fresh decade has arguable ‘kicked it up a notch’. While memories of an impending World War 3 are fading and were almost certainly exaggerated from the onset, one cannot deny that the United States’ assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, and subsequent Iranian missile relatiation, was a rather tense affair that could have easily erupted into a deadly war; moreover, this skirmish added imense uncertaintry and risk to markets. If this wasn’t enough, we are now in the midst of a global health emergency courtesy of the coronavirus which poses a serious threat to large numbers of people and is playing a large part in disrupting the Chinese economy.

The final instalment in the trinity of geopolitical market perils was the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. While the verdict in the Republican held Senate was never really in doubt, given the stakes of the trial, markets were under plenty of stress –  both actual and potential. While Trump polarizes opinion, what is clear is that markets would not have viewed removing the 45th President from office favorably. Of course, Trump was acquitted of all charges, which draws a line under this issue; moreover, it is widely believed that the President’s impeachment has damaged Democratic hopes in the upcoming US General Election and has put Trump in pole position for a November victory, a result that would likely be market-friendly in the short term. However, if a second Trump term results in even higher levels of fiscal spending with the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at, or near, negative levels in real terms, not only would this be at odds with the fiscally conservative modus operandi for which Republicans are famous, but it would also dash our medium term optimism.

Boris Johnson’s January announcement of a new law that would prohibit the sale of gasoline and diesel motor vehicles from 2035 underscores our confidence that we are rapidly moving towards de-carbonization. There are a range of opportunites that will present themselves to markets and investors; of course, there are also risks. We believe that the electric vehicle (EV) market is one that will be of interest to investors as electric car deployment has sky-rocketed during that past decade. There were 5 million electric cars in 2018, which represented a 63% increase from 2017. We believe that 2019 will have seen an even more dramatic rise due to increasing consumer and governmental pressure on the automobile sector to play its significant part in helping to achieve carbon neutrality. Meanwhile, gasoline and diesel cars are starting to become more expensive as governments begin to impose punative taxes to make them less attractive to consumers; at the same time electric cars are seeing their prices reduced through a combination of government subsidies and tax breaks. In 2018 45% of eletric cars, or 2.3 million, were on the road in China, while Europe boasted 24% of the global fleet, with 22% in the US. Norway is the global leader in terms of marketshare. While electric cars and other EVs represent improvements in terms of green house gas emissions versus their fossil fuel counterparts, the best results will only occur when electricity grids are also less carbon intensive or fully green and/or sustainable.

Investment Outlook

James O’Leary, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management, sees coronavirus as a major threat to the global economy. ‘We believe that the virus will take 1% off China’s GDP growth rate in 2020, which will see it fall below 6% for the first time in a long while. Furthermore, we see China’s first quarter GDP falling to 4%.’ He continued: ‘Since China is the world’s second largest economy, this will negatively impact global GDP growth.’ Indeed, though markets vividly remember the SARS outbreak of 2003, the economic stakes were far less significant as back in those days China’s economy was considerably smaller, ranking only 6th in the world and with a GDP that was well below $2tr. By contrast, in 2019 China’s GDP was over $14tr and represented over 16% of the global output, which presents a worrying picture for those fearful of coronavirus sparking a global meltdown. While coronavirus presents short term – and possibly medium term – issues for both China and all global economies, the result may be particularly harmful for China. Indeed, US businesses moving supply chains from China to other countries – like Vietnam, for instance – that began with the US-China trade war may well be accelerated due to the major interruptions that coronavirus has created for both product and component manufacturing. O’Leary said: ‘Once a supply-chain is moved outside of a particular country, it doesn’t automatically return once the initial problem is resolved.’

Despite the clear issues created by coronavirus, O’Leary says that China’s government and central bank have responded appropriately to thwart the economic rot by lowering interest rates, offering tax breaks and consumer subsidies and flushing their market with liquidity. And yet, even a totalitarian government can only control so much, as despite all of these measures including President Xi Jinping promising to help mitigate large-scale layoffs, it is likely that the small businesses; i.e. the lifeblood of the Chinese economy, will still be rocked by layoffs, bankruptcies and increased unemployment.

Coronavirus has complicated everyday life in Wuhan – the Chinese city in which the global health emergency began – severely impacting the local economy. Due to quarantine, businesses being shut for weeks beyond the expected Chinese New Year holiday season and citizens remaining indoors to avoid contracting the virus, China’s streets are empty and deprived of consumer spending. As a result the restaurant and retail sectors have been hard hit; moreover, they have entirely missed out on the Chinese New Year-induced spending spree (the local equivalent to our Christmas shopping season) which is a disastrous and often fatal blow for the many business who are utterly dependent on this annual sales spike. Moreover, on the recommendation of a range of national governments, foreigners are staying away from China, which has resulted in tourism spending drying up too. Indeed, many airlines including Delta and British Airways have suspended all flights to China until the coronavirus situation improves. ‘The Chinese economy is at the mercy of the coronavirus. Indeed, it is easy to see how the global economy may be in a similar situation in no time at all,’ says O’Leary.

According to O’Leary, while EVs currently make up a mere 2-3% of total global automobile production, it is a no-brainer to expect their marketshare to increase dramatically. He believes that companies that join Tesla to compete to become the standard-bearers of the industry will see increased growth which may lead to increased stock value. ‘The big beneficiaries will be chip companies that specialize in automotive applications and software producers that manage efficiency and safety,’ says O’Leary. Businesses that produce small efficient motors and specialized engine lubricants should also benefit by the emergence of EVs ramping up their global presence.

Henry James International Management has been an early advocate of ESG investing through our HJIM International ESG Large Cap strategy, whose track record extends back to September 2008. Our faith in ESG is not only because we see value in offering the chance for people to invest using their world view as a crucial overlay, but we also believe that it is important to ride both the cutting-edge and clear direction in which we see the market trending. As such, we believe in finding the industries and companies that will benefit from a move to a range of environmentally friendly solutions. But O’Leary offers a stark warning: ‘In order for the green revolution to be both environmentally impactful and economically beneficial we need to remember that EVs are not a solution unto themselves. For example, while EVs have become prevalent in China and even India, it is easy to forget that much of their electricity production is achieved through burning coal.’  Furthermore, O’Leary believes Trump must get on the same page as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently put into law a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel engines after 2035, as otherwise this may become the next example of something that sees China run circles around the ponderous and clumsy West as it clearly is doing with its 5G technology. O’Leary believes that there is great growth to be had in the EV sector, but it is a question of whether the future will see us driving US- or Chinese-made electric cars.

O’Leary says that the price of oil will likely be greatly affected by the emergence of EVs becoming mainstream and gas and diesel fuel consumption gradually decreasing. ‘The one thing we know,’ says O’Leary, ‘is that while oil demand may decrease, it will never go completely away as oil and oil products are required in all vehicles and machines. This will not go away even when EVs take over our roads and highways.’ O’Leary believes that achieving carbon neutrality is something that will require governments, businesses and consumers working together. He said, ‘As we have seen through the coronavirus outbreak, the State (this time China) doesn’t always know best. Indeed, while the State may not always know how best to achieve the global goal of helping stop global warming, it is a objective that is as important as anything we are currently faced with and failure is not an option.’

As we enter the second half of the First Quarter, both economic threats and opportunities abound. While coronavirus’ potential to even further threaten global health and markets remains palpable, we anticipate that its momentum will eventually be thwarted and that the affected economies will recover. Furthermore, regardless of one’s views relating to global warming, we can hopefully all agree that there is money to be made in innovation, even if it is the green-friendly, carbon-neutralizing variety. While our concerns about high government debt and lower interest rates persist, we agree with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the US and global economies remain strong; as such, we see 2020 continuing 2019’s success.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Henry James International Management November Market Commentary

Market Overview

 Perhaps the best thing about November’s market performance is that at least it did not damage the 2019 gains that seemed a rather far-fetched prospect a year ago. The MSCI EAFE index dramatically zigzagged up and down all month, and it appears that the month coincidentally happened to end while it was up an uninspiring 1.14%. The MSCI Emerging Market index followed a similar roller-coast path, but unfortunately finished the month down by -0.13%. The MSCI World ex USA Small Cap index posted modest gains that most will gladly take given the geo-political and economic conditions with which markets have been faced, up 2.28%.

November was set to be a turning point in the United States (US) – China trade dispute until a certain President was apparently moved to announce his support for the Hong Kong protestors. On November 27, 2019 President Donald Trump signed two bills on Hong Kong human rights, one that put sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who abuse human rights and another that prohibits the sale of nonlethal munitions to Hong Kong police. Despite Trump admitting that he signed these bills out of ‘respect for (Chinese) President Xi, China and the people of Hong Kong’, his actions incurred Beijing’s ire and the summoning of the US ambassador to communicate that the move would undermine trade negotiations.

November watched the Hong Kong local elections with unprecedented interest. Generally rarely anyone outside of Hong Kong gives a hoot about them as the election winners will ultimately manage municipal tedium like bus routes and garbage collection and will have zero ability to meaningfully push Hong Kong toward the democracy the protestors (along with the West) apparently crave. Nonetheless, in light of the elections taking place during the most heated anti-Beijing protest Hong Kong has ever experienced, the elections became a proxy-referendum on the status quo and Communist China’s political stranglehold over the Special Administrative Region. The pro-democracy camp won its biggest ever victory, taking 17 of Hong Kong’s 18 district councils. While this will have severely undermined the already beleaguered Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her viability as head of government, the truth is that her position is as tenable as President Xi’s autocratic whims say it is. Furthermore, while the election results in themselves can and will do nothing to achieve the democracy for which so many Hongkongers are demanding, the decisiveness of the pro-democracy’s victory will have sent shock waves to Beijing. The question is which is the more likely result: President Xi listening to and fully accommodating the protestors’ wishes or bringing forth Tiananmen Square 2.0?

Henry James International Management November Market Commentary
November saw the largest anti-Beijing protest in Hong Kong’s history.

After the hubris inspired by the surprise spike in German manufacturing orders in September and the hope that this signified a bottoming out, October saw the biggest downturn in a decade. According to the Federal Statistics Office, German industrial output fell by -5.3% in October versus the same month in 2018. This is horrible news for a German economy that thought it had turned a corner, as well as for the European Union (EU) who has been dealing with the impeding effects of Brexit; of course, an economically weak Germany holds dire consequence for the global economy. Germany’s political situation does not offer any help as the junior partner in government with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), recently elected new party leaders that are hostile to the Chancellor and will vote on whether to remain in coalition. If the SDP chooses to abandon the coalition either the CDU will form a minority government or there will be a snap election, two options that will not offer Germany the short-term economic stability it may crave.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s dramatic election victory on December 12, 2019 has given a strong indication that Britain’s three and a half years of Brexit limbo will finish on January 31, 2020. Johnson’s catch phrase of ‘getting Brexit done’ apparently appealed to British voters who gave the Conservative Party the largest Parliamentary majority enjoyed by any United Kingdom political party since the 1980s. When the exit polls revealed the likely extent of Johnson’s victory, the price of Sterling shot up to its 12 month high versus USD. Moreover, despite the fact that Brexit is generally not seen as market friendly, pundits have predicted that a Conservative victory might see Britain’s economy enjoy a short-term growth spurt in Q1 of 2020, though it would seem unlikely that it would be sustained throughout the year.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell struck and optimistic chord about the economy when he said he saw ‘the glass as much more than half full’. According to Powell, his ever-flexible monetary policy that lowered interest rates by 75 basis points since July 2019 is maintaining the strength of the US economy and is protecting it against a serious downturn; moreover, it is subduing the damaging effects of trade and tariff uncertainty. The Fed Chairman confirmed that his monetary policy is helping to improve both consumer and business sentiment and to catalyze spending in interest-rate sensitive sectors such as housing and consume durable goods. Despite the already robust US labor market adding 266,000 jobs in November – a figure that smashed expectations – along with the joblessness-rate at a 50-year low, Powell indicated that he believes there is still plenty of room for growth on these impressive gains. He suggested that elected officials can build on the momentum through implementing the policies that will support and reward the labor force to get the training and education required to meet the challenges of technological innovation and global competition.

Henry James International Management November Market Commentary
Getting trade back on track is vital for Presidents Trump and Xi’s political survival, says O’Leary.

Investment Outlook

James O’Leary, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management sees the beginning of a US-China trade truce on the horizon, the recent tension resulting from Trump’s Hong Kong protest bills, notwithstanding. ‘ Presidents Trump and Xi have mounting incentive to bury the hatchet and to work together to resolve the trade dispute. Firstly, Trump’s re-election begins and ends with a strong US economy; secondly, one of the few items that can undermine President Xi’s lifetime term in office – not to mention the Communist Party’s complete control of China – is a weakened economy.’ He continued, ‘As such, a prolonged trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies is not just something that isn’t in anyone’s interest. Getting trade back on track is vital to political survival.’ Moreover, according to O’Leary, a fair and balanced trade deal should not only go a long way to balance US imports and exports with China, it will create American jobs and mitigate Chinese intellectual property (IP) theft, something for which Beijing has already increased the penalty and on which it has promised to crack down. While O’Leary remains dubious about whether China will carry through with its efforts to mitigate IP theft given that it is widely believed that it is state-sponsored, he is encouraged that other countries – Germany, in particular – are becoming aware of the seriousness of the situation. ‘A multi-lateral approach to stopping Chinese IP theft may be the best way forward,’ says O’Leary.

O’Leary was shocked by the recent German industrial output figures as he was under the impression that its manufacturing sector was back on track. ‘German large manufacturing equities have seen their stock prices rally over that past three months and based on the fact that stock performance is generally an indicator of future GDP growth, 2020 appeared set to be a good year for Germany.’ However, not only have October’s figures thrown this in doubt, Germany’s political situation will likely only make recovery and improved business confidence even more difficult.

O’Leary agrees with Federal Reserve Chairman Powell’s assessment of the US economy is in a good place; and he believes that Powell has done a good job managing the sugar high of the Trump Tax Cuts as well as issues created through tariff and trade uncertainty. O’Leary says that the sustained economic growth is starting to benefit lower earners, but he agrees with Powell that more can be done on a policy front to invest in workers both to ensure that American prosperity benefits a wider breadth of society, but also so that the American economy is ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

In many ways, November has been a microcosm of 2019: volatile, complicated, filled with economic headwinds but also reasons for optimism. Indeed, much like the year so far, the many causes for concern, notwithstanding, markets are generally delivering positive returns for investors. While it remains difficult to be 100% optimistic about 2020, we believe that many institutional investors will be more than delighted the US and China are likely on the brink of a trade deal and that the US economy is fundamentally strong (despite inflation lower than 2% and interest rates being too low for comfort). Of course, threats to markets remain – namely a prolonged German economic downturn, a Brexit that is messy despite Johnson’s election victory and Trump continuing his policy of weaponizing tariffs. From our perspective, we see the forces for economic growth capable of subduing those of contraction and remain hopeful that 2020 will be positive for investors.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Henry James International Management October Market Commentary

Market Overview 

October was a good month for markets, and not just in the ‘growth despite raging volatility’ way that has become the 2019 norm. We believe we are seeing evidence of an economy that has resiliently chugged along despite being burdened and destabilized by a range of geopolitical and economic issues. Market performance spiked encouragingly in the month of October: the MSCI EAFE was up 3.60%, while the MSCI Emerging Markets and MSCI World ex USA Small Cap indices jumped by 4.23% and 4.12%, respectively.

While nothing is official, there is good anecdotal reason to believe that trade tensions are thawing between the United States (US) and China as both sides have either overtly or under conditions of anonymity (in the US’s case) admitted that the sides are working towards a phase one trade deal that would see the beginning of a tariff roll back. Of course, if this does not come to fruition in the short term that would be the par for course for this unpredictable trade dispute and would hardly be surprising, particularly as US President Donald Trump’s Trade Advisor Peter Navarro denied the report and indicated that it was nothing more than ‘Chinese propaganda’.

There is renewed optimism in German manufacturing – the global bellwether – due to the recently released figures showing a rebound in German factory orders. Demand rose by 1.3% in September, or 30 basis points higher than the predicted gain, which optimistically suggests that the euro-area economy has passed the worst of its recent troubles.  Indeed, as demand from outside the Euro area provided the biggest boost, Germany’s success will be good news for global manufacturing, too.

Henry James International Management September Market Commentary
It is difficult to see how Britain would ever Brexit without a deal at the very least.

While Brexit can be considered nothing more than a complete mess and the bringer of British, European and global economic headwinds, there is perhaps reason to be somewhat positive. Despite the fact that the continued uncertainty will only wreak further market havoc, there does not appear to be an appetite for a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit on any front, particularly now that we have passed the October 31, 2019 deadline; i.e. the time in which it was a distinct possibility. After ‘No-Deal’ cheerleader Nigel Farage indicated that his Brexit Party would not stand candidates against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in more than 300 key seats, it is difficult to see how Britain would ever Brexit without a deal at the very least.

If there were any doubt about the green shoots of economic success poised to burst through the dried, rocky soil of 2019, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set the record straight at his October 30, 2019 press conference when he said that monetary policy is in a good place to achieve moderate economic growth, a strong labor market and inflation near 2%. In other words, the US economy is in a surprisingly strong place and despite Trump’s vexations with the Fed’s chief, the latter may have helped the former’s chances at re-election.

Investment Outlook

James O’Leary, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management is hopeful that the US and China will make progress on a trade deal in the short term, but that the more serious issues will only be dealt with after the US’s 2020 General Election. He said: ‘I think that there will be some sort of an initial trade deal which will not include harder topics like trademark and patent protection.’ As a portfolio manager, O’Leary is excited by the prospects of the tariff certainty that a deal would bring and the related benefits for markets. ‘If there is a deal, while all securities will benefit, we believe that Chinese equities will do particularly well,’ he said. While O’Leary welcomes the possibility of a trade deal, he believes that Trump must hold his nerve and properly handle the problem of Chinese intellectual property theft as he is not certain that Xi Jinping can be trusted on this issue. A resolution to the US-China trade war that has hampered markets for well over a year would be a big boost to not only the economy, but also to President Trump. ‘A strong economy always favors the incumbent,’ says O’Leary; moreover, he believes a Trump re-election would likely compel China to address US IP theft concerns.

Henry James International Management September Market Commentary
We believe that Trump must hold his nerve and properly handle the problem of Chinese intellectual property theft.

Quite apart from any possibility of a resolution to the US-China trade war, O’Leary agrees with Fed Chairman Powell that the US economy is in a good place. He said: ‘The US consumer remains strong, as does America’s growth. We feel that US equities may be fairly valued given the current economic environment.’ O’Leary also believe that the upcoming 2020 US General Election will provide an added boost to both US and global markets. In O’Leary’s view, the seeds of economic resiliency were planted more than a decade ago: ‘I believe the strength of the US economy is in part a result of the plans that were put into place at the end of the Bush administration, which were continued by Obama and boosted by the Trump tax cuts.’ O’Leary continued: “Along and in conjunction with global leaders – including and especially China that has seen its economy rapidly grow from $4,600bn in 2008 to $13,605bn in 2018 – the US has greatly helped drive the global economy and its recovery.’

O’Leary sees Germany’s recent manufacturing data as a clear indication of a bottoming out of orders:  ‘It appears that France and Germany’s manufacturing is starting to improve as clarity in global trade disputes, including Brexit, start to become apparent.’ O’Leary indicated that economic growth remains positive in the European Union and that the European Central Bank (ECB) has cut interest rates and reactivated its bond-buying stimulus program to help shore up growth and get inflation back to its goal of just below 2%. ‘If manufacturing growth continues, I believe European and Chinese equities will be the big winners,’ says O’Leary.

Though O’Leary is delighted that the chances of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit are looking remote, he is less enthusiastic about the economic uncertainty emanating within and from the world’s 5th biggest economy. O’Leary hopes that the December 2019 General Election will bring clarity to Brexit and the economic stability Britain craves, but he believes this may be wishful thinking. Perhaps the clearest way out of the mess would be the Conservatives securing a majority in Parliament, which would likely see Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal take affect by the current January 31, 2020 deadline; however, the Parliamentary math isn’t necessarily in Johnson’s favor. The only other viable party to win the election is the Labour Party, a scenario that – while carrying with it the market-friendly possibility of reversing Brexit altogether – would see Brexit uncertainty spill over beyond the current deadline. With British voters never less loyal to the two main political parties, O’Leary sees a hung Parliament as the likely outcome in this election which would mean yet another impotent minority government who simply lacks the power – to use Johnson’s campaign slogan – to Get Brexit Done.

While we remain aware of the likelihood that the investment outlook can change for the worse at any moment, we currently have a positive outlook without too many qualifiers or caveats. With the stimulus that a US General Election will bring the world’s GDP, the improving trade relations between the US and China and the ECB’s stimulus package, we see the potential for increased global growth in 2020 and believe a recession in the short term is unlikely.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its’ representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Henry James May Market Commentary

Market Overview

An Irish poet once wrote, ‘Things fall apart’. While William Butler Yeats’s words were illuminating the terror and awe of the second coming of Christ, it would be easy to see how investors might consider them rather apropos for the way in which May managed to thwart and consume 2019’s positive market momentum. Just as the S&P 500 reached its record high at the end of April, May saw the index fall by -6.35%. Developed Market (DM) equities were also victims to the blood-dimmed tide: as measured by the MSCI EAFE index their value tumbled by -4.66%. While such losses will trouble investors, particularly as most indicators point towards a daunting, uphill climb for markets for the rest of 2019 and beyond, it would be wise to remember that year-to-date the S&P 500 and MSCI EAFE not only remain well into positive territory, they are both exceeding the expectations set during the dismal days of December 2018. While American and DM equities have been left merely bruised, May brought Emerging Market (EM) equities to their knees. Their stellar 2019 returns were overrun and eliminated, falling by -7.22% as measured by the MSCI EM index, practically down to where they were at the end of 2018.

The main protagonist who pitilessly turned markets upside down in May was the United States (US)-China trade war. Just over two months after US President Donald Trump indefinitely postponed the tariff raise from 10% to 25% on over $200bn of Chinese goods, on May 10, 2019 he suddenly enacted them with no more than a few days’ notice. The following Monday, May 13th the Chinese retaliated with their own tariff increases on over $60bn of US goods. The freshly realized trade war had begun and its impact was swift and immense: the Dow fell 617 points and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped a shocking 2.4% in just one day of trading. Those hoping that Trump’s hard nose tactics would yield an immediate result and that the tariffs would be short-lived may well have been thinking naively: we are a lot closer to new increases than to a cooling of trade hostilities. More than $300bn of fresh Chinese goods – mostly consumer goods, including automotive vehicles, some of which rather ironically bearing the name ‘General Motors’– are only a signature away from being enacted by Trump. More tariffs would likely incur a further retaliation from China and suck both countries deeper and deeper into a trade war from which it will not be easy to escape. According to the International Monetary Fund the trade war will cost the US around $455bn in the short term, a round number that is more than the total size of the South African economy, which is the entire continent of Africa’s largest. While it will hit China hard, too, the one party-state has the greater ability to manoeuvre and pull levers to stimulate its economy through monetary and fiscal easing and by lowering taxes. Furthermore, unemployment is not an issue in China; but despite its resilience, China’s businesses and consumers will feel plenty of trade war-induced pain. Despite this being a bilateral issue, all international markets will feel the trade war’s strain and stress.

Henry James International Management May 2019 Market Commentary
More than $300bn of fresh Chinese goods – including automotive vehicles rather ironically bearing the name ‘General Motors’– are only a Trump signature away from being enacted.

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is currently stuck between its lofty capitalistic aspirations and ownership links to the Chinese one-party Communist state. On May 15, 2019 Trump banned Huawei products from the US through a national security order, claiming that Beijing is using the company to conduct international espionage. Both China and Huawei vehemently deny the accusations; it has also been suggested that this is a power play by the US to make the Chinese more pliable at the trade negotiating table. This accusation was first levied against Washington back in December 2018 when Huawei Chief Financial Advisor Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US on 13 criminal charges including conspiracy to violate US Iranian sanctions, fraud and obstruction; she remains in Canada under partial house arrest where she is battling extradition. According to the US, Wanzhou’s arrest and its banning of Huawei products are both completely unrelated to the trade war. In the meantime, Huawei is suffering as computer chip behemoth Arm has set them adrift and Google is on the verge of withholding its signature Android mobile and tablet operating system. At the same time, Trump is pressuring US allies to also ban both Huawei products and technology – which presents difficulty for countries like Britain and Germany who are using the tech company to build their new 5G networks. If Huawei were tempted to think that their plight could not get any worse and that it was only up from here, they would be crestfallen by the news that Britain has dropped the Huawei Mate 20 X from its forthcoming 5G launch and that – as long as Trump has his Chinese vexation aimed at Huawei – more disappointments are likely to follow.

After a brief and thoroughly restful April slumber, a reinvigorated Brexit is poised to join ranks with the US-China trade war and become a serious thorn in markets’ side. To the delight of investors, late March saw a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit temporarily averted; regrettably the new October 31, 2019 deadline is rapidly approaching. April and May hoisted a range of existential and practical questions upon Britons, their government and their Members of Parliament (MP): what kind of Brexit the United Kingdom (UK) wants, how it will get there and whether it still even wants to leave the European Union (EU) at all. While these introspections have resulted in plenty of discord in the main opposition party, Labour, the ruling Conservatives have manifested their unrest by forcing their party leader and the Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May to resign. Mrs. May is wildly unpopular among Brexiters for failing to arrive at the hard Brexit the more dogmatic among them desired; she is disliked by Remainers for her dogged pursuit of Brexit despite what they believe is copious evidence that remaining in the EU is the far more sensible option. As a result, very few people will be shedding a tear for the PM, and yet markets may be quaking in their boots. While equities have been tortured by the instability and lack of clear direction fostered by Mrs. May’s inability to successfully manage Brexit, it was none other than the PM who saved them from the ruinous ‘No-Deal’ Brexit by postponing the deadline to October 31. Furthermore, any deal under Mrs. May would have probably been an equity-friendly soft-Brexit – now that she is leaving her post it is a near certainty that her successor will come with the most robust of Eurosceptic credentials and could have minimal problem steering Britain and markets off a ‘No-Deal’ cliff to achieve Brexit by October 31.

As Mrs. May has abdicated, the Conservative Party is currently in the midst of a leadership contest and the result will bring the UK its next PM. Boris Johnson, MP, is the leading candidate and he has already declared he has no problem with a ‘No Deal’ Brexit if a suitable agreement cannot be made before October 31, 2019. While Johnson is bold, brash and prone to the occasional gaff – a bit like a subdued, British equivalent of President Trump – his words will likely prove easier to say than to effect: there simply is not a majority for a No-Deal Brexit in Parliament and Johnson will inherent from Mrs. May a minority government from which it is very difficult to do anything significant, particularly when so many members of his own ruling Conservative Party are dead set against a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. While leaving the EU without a deal remains the default legal position regardless of Parliamentary math, if it appears that the UK is headed in that direction it is a near certainty that a no-confidence vote in the government would be triggered, which would result of a new general election. In this very plausible scenario, unless things drastically improve for Johnson’s Conservative Party, particularly after the way in which it got hammered at the recent European Parliamentary elections, they would likely lose the keys to 10 Downing Street to Labour. As such, Johnson will likely have no interest in a fresh general election and will therefore be keen to avoid a situation that would see his government dissolved through a no-confidence vote. Therefore, it seems sensible that even with a Hard-Brexit PM all options remain on the table, including a second ‘People’s Vote’ referendum that could break Parliament’s Brexit deadlock and give the a final decision about what kind of Brexit is desired – or if it is still desired at all – back to Britons. While markets may optimistically decide to take this as a news teetering on ‘positive’, even with rose-tinted glasses it is clear that the raging political uncertainty that would accompany avoiding a ‘No Deal’ Brexit in this convoluted, dragged-out fashion would punish the British economy and equities within and beyond the UK.

Already a diabolical month for markets, there was more bad news for investors on its final day – on May 31st Trump announced plans for a 5% tariff on all imported Mexican goods to begin on June 10, 2019 as a way to pressure Mexico into taking action to help manage the illegal migrant crisis. As discussed in last month’s Market Commentary, the Mexican economy is already in bad shape and tariffs would have been a crushing blow, particularly as they were scheduled to increase incrementally:  up to 10% in July and possibly as high as 25% by October. Thankfully Trump announced on Saturday June 8th that he would cancel the tariff increase as Mexico agreed a host of new measures: to clamp down on migrants crossing its northern US border, to deploy its national guard to the southern Mexican border to thwart fresh migrants moving north and to work to abate human smuggling. The result of this drama – an 8 day period that saw American equities, consumers, businesses, investors and the Mexican economy all squirm in uncertainty and fear– may be painted as a political victory for Trump as Mexico obliged to his wishes without any tariff ever having been introduced. But the question must be asked, particularly in light of the on-going issue of the US-China trade war: is it wise to use tariffs in the way in which the President is quickly becoming a fan?

According to Trump, ‘Tariffs are a “beautiful thing when you’re the piggy bank,”– but what happens to this bold assertion when it is scrutinized? Investors and equities should all delight in the fact that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) recognized the genuine damage that quickly escalating tariffs would do to his country’s already fragile and floundering economy and acquiesced to the US President; the problem from an American perspective vis-à-vis Make America Great Again is that tariffs would have done arguably more damage to the US economy (and those who rely on it), its vastly superior strength, notwithstanding. Indeed, Mexican tariffs would be a blow for US businesses with supply-chains running through Mexico and the resulting products – from car parts to avocados – would bear what is effectively a sales tax that would be passed on to American consumers. As such it is no surprise that the Republican Party was unable to rally behind the President, with both Senators Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz speaking out in opposition to the Mexican tariffs. Moreover, to view Trump’s thoughtless words on his love of tariffs through a historical prism, one need only look back to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act to see the effects of over-reliance on tariffs that saw them implemented on over 20,000 imported goods, which subsequently incurred punitive retaliatory measures, which resulted in American exports and imports being reduced by more than half during the Great Depression. There is near consensus that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act – effected in 1930 – greatly exacerbated the Great Depression; it is a bit of history that confirms that excessive tariffs have the ability to cause economic shrinkage, spiral out of control and cause a deep and painful recession. The President may wish to consider this if he is to stand a chance at re-election in 2020.

Henry James International Management May 2019 Market Commentary
Mexican tariffs would be a blow for US businesses with supply-chains running through Mexico and the resulting products – from car parts to avocados – would bear what is effectively a sales tax that would be passed on to American consumers.

Like Trump, the Federal Reserve would also like to see a recession avoided; indeed, we believe its Chairman Jerome Powell is all too aware of the likelihood of one barrelling towards the US. Not only has he spontaneously climbed down from a more-or-less set policy of increasing interest rates throughout 2019, he has even given signs that he is open to lowering them. During a speech on June 4th in Chicago, Powell said that he would be ‘closely monitoring’ trade negotiations and ‘other matters’ – that one might suggest could be tariffs – for the US economic outlook and to act appropriately to sustain its expansion. Naturally, lowering interest rates would not only be a trick to fighting back recession, it would also provide relief to US businesses and consumers from tariffs.

In the Middle East, US-Iranian tensions have flared up to the point where a bona fide war has become a genuine possibility. Since leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump’s administration has followed a policy of maximum pressure – apparently this has so far failed as Iran is not succumbing to sabre rattling or threats and they have even defiantly said they may soon cease complying with the Nuclear Deal. Moreover, according the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iran is using mines to attack oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. In short, through Trump’s treatment of Iran, not only are we closer to a war, we are also closer to Iran choosing to resume its nuclear weapons program. Despite Trump saying that his only desire is to get Iran back to the negotiating table to prevent it from developing these weapons, in May the President deployed military assets to the region, which may suggest a somewhat more hawkish stance.

Ever since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro managed to get his ambitious and necessary pension reform through the Lower House Constitution, Justice Committee and subsequently on the doorstep of Brazil’s Congress, there has been little movement. However, as this was always going to be a long process, Bolsonaro’s administration remains positive. However, according to credit rating agency Fitch, while the pension overhaul is absolutely necessary, there is no scenario in which it will single-handedly stabilize Brazil’s public debt, much less kick its economy into the high gear the reforms supposedly promised. Consequently, it would seem that the market’s original enthusiasm for President Bolsonaro may have been unjustified.

In India, despite failing to realize his wide-ranging reform program in his first term and the disaster that was his currency redenomination, Narendra Modi won a decisive election victory to see him remain the PM for another 5 years. Indian equities enjoyed this tremendously, surging to record highs on the back of Modi’s new potent political mandate. Despite India’s Sensex’s recent success, there are concerns that the index is overvalued, with a forward PE of 18 compared to its EM Asia peers who average 12. Moreover, the Indian economy is facing high unemployment and its lowest GDP growth in 5 years.

A bright spot that stands in relief to the ruin of May is Vietnam, who is rather enjoying the US-China trade war. The Southeast Asian country is capitalizing on supply chain disruptions as more and more manufacturers move from China to within its borders to escape Trump’s tariff. In no small part due to this, its economy is expected to grow to just under 7% in 2019 and is poised to exceed 7% in 2020. While Vietnam’s economic success bodes well for other Asian EM economies, it is set to reap the most benefits from the US-China trade war given its proximity to China, well regulated and high quality labor conditions and affordable wages.

Henry James International Management May 2019 Market Commentary
Vietnam is set to benefit from the US-China trade war given its proximity to China, well regulated and high quality labor conditions and affordable wages.

Investment Outlook

No matter the direction from which you approach it, May was an appalling month for equities. Beyond its poor performance, a range of intimidating headwinds appear to be here for the long haul to stymie or at least frustrate positive market momentum. The only bit of lipstick we can put on this is really two fold: DM equities remain well above expectations so far in 2019 and they are in positive territory year-to-date. Secondly, despite EM equities losing all their 2019 gains in a single month, there are still fine investment opportunities to be had – one just might have to look a bit harder to find them.

We had repeated to ourselves ad nauseum that cooler heads would prevail in the US-China trade war. We were wrong and we are now immersed in a full-fledged trade war which – despite arguably some virtuous motivations – will damage both the US and Chinese economies and will cause pain for many others. While it is at best wishful thinking, we can only hope that there will be a somewhat swift resolution that will see all tariffs gradually rolled back while both countries work toward a new, mutually beneficial trade deal to mitigate the ways in which American businesses, consumers and the economy have to suffer. What is more, even without a trade war, both the US and China have been in the midst of worrying economic slow downs, so one wonders how much deeper the plunge will be now? Our lone hope is that Trump’s survival instincts will kick in and he will remember that he has an election to win in the next calendar year, which may be a tall order if he has single-handedly driven the US into a trade-war-induced recession.

We are delighted that Trump called off his Mexico tariffs at the last moment, something that equities at least momentarily enjoyed; however, we believe untold damage has been done to the American economy and its trading relations as a consequence of the 8 days during which the 5% tariff threat appeared to be an imminent and palpable reality. From an American business perspective, only the most optimistic persons will think that the trade hostilities are done and dusted and that we have emerged on the other side into a new stable trading relationship between the US and Mexico. In many ways, American businesses who rely on Mexico for their supply chains or materials are faced with a similar predicament as their UK counterparts with Brexit. The threat of future tariffs popping up again creates a most uncertain environment for businesses with links to Mexico, and such conditions impede the ability to make medium- to long-term business plans and also make it difficult to invest in new infrastructure and make new hirings; it also makes these businesses far less attractive investment opportunities.

We also wonder what damage the threat of tariffs has done to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) replacement between United States, Mexico and Canada vis-à-vis the recently signed (but have not yet ratified) United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)? One may ask whether this new free trade agreement is worth the paper on which it is written if tariffs can be thrown into the equation whenever Trump is feeling trigger-happy. It does not just hurt the US’s reputation with its northern and southern neighbors, we believe it sends the wrong message to the Chinese about the potential value of a new US trade deal. Furthermore, the US brazenly devaluing the meaningfulness of its trade deals does not exactly encourage the Communist state to make any of the dramatic concessions that Trump is justifiably demanding.

Henry James International Management
Despite Brexit, Britain remains an economic powerhouse and is filled with some of the biggest, best and most innovative businesses in the world.

Our expectations for Brexit are not overwhelmingly positive. We see a ‘No-Deal’ leaning PM replacing Mrs. May, and we see this person (probably Mr. Johnson) being thwarted and frustrated by his lack of Parliamentary majority, the Remainers in his own party, the opposition parties and maybe even the House Speak John Bercow (who has been transparent about his desire to block Brexit). Britain is at a Brexit stalemate which means that markets should be braced for more uncertainty and any residual positive momentum may gradually evaporate and grind the UK economy to at best a halt, at worst, recession. If there is any hope, it is that Britain remains an economic powerhouse and is filled with some of the biggest, best and most innovative businesses in the world who may be able to keep the country afloat and heading in the right direction while Britons and their MPs duke it out over a Brexit resolution.

Regarding EM markets, while they will largely be victimized by the fall out of the US-China trade war – which is most worrying – it is not all bad. The Fed’s decision to freeze interest rates is very good news for EM equities; Powell deciding to lower rates would be an early Christmas present. Furthermore, while China is clearly in a worse place while embroiled in a trade war, its President Xi Jinping has the ability to manipulate his monetary policy in a way that can soften the damage through continuing a strategy of monetary and fiscal easing. China also recently delivered over $298bn of tax cuts and company fees savings, which will only help further. Of course, lowering taxes will not help Chinese businesses retain the manufacturing they will lose to other Asian EM economies to avoid Trump’s tariffs. Vietnam is already benefitting tremendously from this and will likely continue to do so; and Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines will also likely enjoy benefiting from China’s manufacturing losses. We believe all these markets offer interesting opportunities for investors, but of course rising US interest rates and an even stronger US dollar could bear negative consequences. Lastly, while India’s market may be overpriced, it is likely that their equities may offer better value than US or other DM equities stifled by Brexit or stagnant EU growth.

In conclusion, May has not been a positive month for investors – a trade war is waging without an end in sight between the world’s two largest economies, Brexit is a disaster and is impeding both the UK and EU economies, Trump has a self-admitted weakness for recession-inducing tariffs and there are a range of other geopolitical issues that have destabilised markets. And yet, the many causes for concern notwithstanding, we expect the world economy to end 2019 with growth; what is more, we believe EM equities will presents investors with copious ‘diamonds in the rough’ opportunities which will be there for those willing and capable of unearthing them.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its’ representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.